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TravelStar Treks: Trace Miley Cyrus' roots near Nashville

Star Treks: Trace Miley Cyrus' roots near Nashville

Saturday, July 19th 2008, 4:40 PM

Teen queen Miley Cyrus was the Rockefeller Center Plaza headliner for the "Today" show's free summer concert series on Friday, the latest appearance by a megastar who rules the record charts and youth TV.

But before she began her double life in a show about an average teenager who is also a famous pop singer, Cyrus actually was an average teenager living on a (500-acre) farm outside of Nashville. It's worth a trip to this part of Tennessee for die-hard fans wanting to trace the footsteps of their favorite singer.

Disney is making her hit show, "Hannah Montana," into a movie, and filming has already begun near Miley's real-life hometown in the rolling hills of rural Williamson County, less than an hour from Nashville.

You don't have to wait for the movie, scheduled for release next May, to see for yourself why the teen is thrilled to be back home. Or why dad Billy Ray Cyrus wrote a song, "Back to Tennessee," in celebration of Disney's decision to film in this beautiful state.

Stay in family-friendly Nashville, where Miley and her father both perform and where he is working on a new album on Music Row, the historic center of the city's recording industry. Go to the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel and the Hermitage Hotel for celebrity spotting. The "Hannah Montana" cast members who don't live as close by as the Cyruses will probably stay there.

Nashville, the country music mecca, has a thriving music scene that includes everything from jazz to classical. There's good music, at good prices (or free), performed day and night in bars and concert halls, on the streets and in restaurants.

You can create your own art at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts or view the museum's exhibits, then stay for free music in the lobby on Thursdays and Fridays.

A few blocks away, also on Broadway, is the Sommet Center, the huge arena where Miley had her 15th-birthday bash. It's also where hundreds of tweens showed up to audition for the "Hannah Montana" casting call in the spring.

Visitors can stop for authentic Southern smoked ribs, brisket and pork, across the street on Broadway, at Jack's Bar-B-Que.

A short walk around the corner is the County Music Hall of Fame & Museum, on the other side of the Sommet Center. Miley has appeared here with her father, who was the topic of an exhibit when it opened in 2001 and is a regular visitor.

A day trip to the country along Highway 100 will take you toward Leiper's Fork and Franklin, towns that are locations for the movie and, in real life, for the Cyrus family, who have a farm in the area.

First stop is the Loveless Cafe, another Cyrus haunt, near the Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic two-lane road about 30 minutes outside Nashville.

This retro restaurant, known for country ham and flaky biscuits, is the official caterer for the "Hannah Montana" movie. Visit the shop and pick up some homemade jam, favored by Reese Witherspoon, another local.

Drive into Leiper's Fork and visit Punkett's Grocery Store, another stop on the Cyrus circuit, for a sandwich or a snack.

Loop back to Franklin, an old-fashioned town with a thriving village square. Miley is known to eat at the Cracker Barrel restaurant across from the Cool Springs Galleria Mall there.

The picture-perfect town, where Civil War battles were waged and buffalo once roamed, has an old-fashioned charm that lured Willie Nelson, Faith Hill, Nicole Kidman and other celebrities to settle here. When you discover the proximity to neighboring Nashville, you understand that Miley Cyrus really does have the best of both worlds.

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